No matter how long you’ve been driving for, many motorists dread being behind the wheel during winter. Dark mornings and nights, bright lights and unpredictable conditions all combine which can result in the roads becoming hard to navigate. Whether it’s rain, snow or ice that’s lining the road, it’s important that you feel safe and comfortable while in control of your own car. Temperatures across the UK have begun to drop recently, so here’s our winter driving safety advice to help make you feel fully prepared for any journey you’re about to take.
Whether you’re driving home for Christmas or doing your daily commute to work, it is essential that you stay safe in your car during winter. One of the easiest ways to do this is to plan your trip accordingly. It’s advised that you plan ahead and time your trip, especially on long journeys. During winter, driving conditions are often unknown so being prepared for any potential delays is key.
When the cold weather strikes, the last thing you want is to be is stuck in a pile up of traffic – although sometimes this can be totally unavoidable. Before you travel during winter, we suggest checking your sat nav to see if it recognises any likely traffic problems. This could help you with planning an alternative route.
When it comes to safe driving in winter, having your car fully prepared is vital. No matter where you’re driving to, be it the local shops or the other side of the country, making sure everything is in working order could save you any unnecessary issues. There are a number of quick checks you should be carrying out when adverse weather hits, including:
Both new and used cars frequently break down in winter, with car recovery experts reporting a higher number of calls over this period. In the event that you’re one of the unfortunate ones, making sure that you have everything you need in your vehicle is an important part of winter driving safety.
When conditions do get bad, it’s often recommended that you don’t drive unless absolutely necessary. We understand that sometimes you simply can’t carry out your day-to-day life without your car. Should you need to drive during winter, make sure you have extra supplies in the back. Dry and warm clothes are key, such as hats, gloves, scarves and jumpers. It may also be worth packing an extra coat and even a blanket, just in case – you’ll be thankful for this should the worst happen!
Other essentials to keep in your car during winter include a first aid kit, jump cables, phone charger and a torch. Winter driving safety experts suggest some hi-vis clothing and a warning light may help you flag down another motorist but will also let people know that you’re there. Without these, they might not be able to see you stuck at the side of the road.
A big part of winter driving safety is having a clear vision of what’s in front of you. If your windscreen is covered in snow and ice, how do you expect to see where you’re going? This includes removing any snow from your car’s lights as well as its roof. Imagine driving along the motorway and the snow slips down onto your windscreen, what will you do if your wipers are unable to clear it? Or worse, imagine it’s someone in front of you who hasn’t cleared the snow properly and it blows back onto your car and obscures your vision, how would you feel then?
There is no law stating that it’s illegal to drive with snow on your car. The Highway Code, however, says that:
You can be penalised for driving without due consideration or using a motor vehicle in a dangerous condition. To avoid this, clear off all snow properly – even if it’s only a 5-minute journey as it’s simply not worth the risk!
One of the worst things we see on the roads during winter is people driving without their lights on. When driving in snowy conditions, it’s imperative that you can see where you’re going and that others can see you too. Properly using your lights, including driving with a dipped beam and using fog lights during heavy snowfall with benefit you as well as other road users.
Sometimes UK motorists are in too much of rush to get to where they need to be. One of the best winter driving tips we can offer is to simply pace yourself. As long as you plan and prepare for your journey and give yourself enough time to get from A to B, there really is no need to be exceeding safe driving speeds.
Even when there’s no visible snow on the roads, there could be patches of black ice which can pose a threat. Road conditions and bad weather don’t always make driving easy and you may often experience having less grip than usual on icy roads.
The thing to be aware of when driving on ice is that braking distances are much greater. They increase tenfold compared to that of dry roads, which is why driving experts say you should leave around 10 times the normal gap between yourself and the driver in front of you. The road’s surface and the cold conditions affect grip, which makes braking less effective.
When driving in the snow, remember to accelerate gently, use low revs and then move to a higher gear as quickly and as safely as possible. To avoid wheel spin, try setting off in second gear. One of the most important things is to make sure there’s enough room between your car and the one in front, especially on hilly roads. Something to be aware of is trying to maintain a constant speed without constantly changing gear and braking unnecessarily.
Lots of drivers feel less comfortable behind the wheel when it gets dark, especially when the roads are busy during peak driving times. It is an offence to drive in dark conditions without functioning front and rear lights. Make sure you’re driving with dipped headlights when needed and only use your full beam on unlit roads when there are no other road users.
Many cars simply aren’t fit to be on the roads during winter. If you don’t think your current car will hold up safely over the next couple of months, it may be best to invest in something you know will be safe and reliable. H.Tones Oxford Garage are North East car specialists, offering a range of used cars. Be sure to check out our range of second-hand vehicles to get yours in time!